Long Lost Review: To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix

Long Lost Reviews is a monthly meme created by Ally over at Ally’s Appraisals which is posted on the second Thursday of every month. The aim is to start tackling your review backlog. Whether it’s an in-depth analysis of how it affected your life, one sentence stating that you only remember the ending, or that you have no recollection of reading the book at all. 

Published: 4th June 2015 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hot Key Books
Pages: 504
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fantasy/Short Stories
★   ★  ★  ★   ★ – 5 Stars

Far to the north of the magical Old Kingdom, the Greenwash Bridge Company has been building a bridge for almost a hundred years. It is not an easy task, for many dangers threaten the bridge builders, from nomad raiders to Free Magic sorcerers. Despite the danger, Morghan wants nothing more than to join the Bridge Company as a cadet. But the company takes only the best, the most skillful Charter mages, and trains them hard, for the night might come when only a single young cadet must hold the bridge against many foes. Will Morghan be that cadet?

Also included in this collection are eighteen short stories that showcase Nix’s versatility as he adds a fantastical twist on an array of genres including science fiction, paranormal, realistic fiction, mystery, and adventure.

Nix has always been a masterful storyteller and these short stories are evidence of that. In a single story that focuses on one moment in time, Nix has the ability to give you an entire understanding of the world with only a few words and in doing so you gain total comprehension of what this world is like and who these characters are.

I loved the diversity and similarities in the stories, and I loved that they captivate you from the first sentence, drawing you in. It is always fantastic to return to the Old Kingdom and the story of the bridge is wonderful, but the short stories are pretty amazing as well. Set across different genres and eras Nix’s voice is through all of them and it’s amazing to see his twists on genre, well-known stories and mythologies.

Across the 18 stories there are vampires, unicorns, spies and legendary kings to name a few, as well as further stories about Nix’s own work. The way Nix mixes together multiple elements and builds them into the new story is incredible and seeing the familiar references or inspiration throughout shows off how clever he can be.

I love everything Nix does and with a collection like this it goes to show that my admiration isn’t unsubstantiated.

You can purchase To Hold the Bridge via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

Loveless by Alice Oseman

Published: 9th July 2020 (print)/9th July 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperCollins Children’s Books /HarperCollins Publishers Limited
Pages: 435/12 hrs and 27 mins
Narrator: Elisabeth Hopper
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★ ★   ★  – 5 Stars

It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?

Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush – but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.

As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.

But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic – Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.

Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?

I ADORE this book. I love so many of Oseman’s works but this one I fell into and didn’t want to climb out of again.

Georgia is a great character, she has friends, lives her life, has great plans for after high school, but she also has a weird feeling she isn’t like other people. I loved how this is explored naturally and how it comes about organically and not in a way where the character is aware of what they’re feeling or experiencing. Georgia’s cluelessness until put in certain situations or asked by people makes this story wonderful because we go on Georgia’s journey with her instead of coming to it after the fact and have her explain it to us.

Oseman does a wonderful job at explaining what asexuality is and what it feels like in a way that feels natural in the narrative and never becomes overbearing for the reader. It is used as a way of explaining things to readers who may not know about it through the characters but there never felt like there was a moment where the story stopped so we could get The Explanation.

The story got better and better as it went along, there’s Shakespeare and love, a houseplant that is so metaphorical it would make every English teacher ecstatic, and there are teenagers at uni feeling feelings and working out who they are and it’s messy and beautiful and full of the power of friendship and it is also full of love.

Elisabeth Hopper does a superb job as narrator, her voice is fantastic for these characters and I love how there’s an instant connection, I was into this story immediately. Another bonus is Hopper is a genius and can pronounce all the wonderful “asdkfjugfk” moments in text speak and the random noises that are made when you excitedly text. I have typed them, I have read them, but I don’t think I’d heard them being pronounced until now and it was great.

I am only new to reading books that are clearly about asexuality and not just briefly implied but this might be my favourite because it’s a solid story on its own but it is also a wonderful narrative that explores discovering who you are, realising there’s nothing wrong with being different, and finding acceptance and a place in the world.

You can purchase Loveless via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

Published: 1 September 2014 (print)/ 9 May 2016 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Hardie Grant Egmont /Bolinda Audio
Pages: 295/7 hrs and 55 mins
Narrator: Roshelle Fong
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

Alba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends.

The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details:

Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared.
And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails.
And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving.

Also, the world might be ending – which is proving to be awkward.

As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems. 

I loved this book so much and yet writing this review has been so hard because I never feel like I am doing my complete love and adoration of this story the justice it deserves.

The story takes place during that timeless period over Christmas and New Year where you don’t know what day it is and there’s a strangeness in the air. Alba and all the characters are wonderful and I love how Keil has developed them and expressed them on the page. They felt so real, so alive, and the complexity of their emotions and their lives comes through even with the smallest of interactions.

There are so many little things I adored about this book: the atmosphere of the small town and the impending Doomsday, the exploration of friendships and growing up and making choices. There is no love triangle which was fantastic and there is a wonderful exploration about friendships and how old friends as kids don’t always mean friendships as adults. Keil demonstrates that sometimes these relationships can end up better, but at the same time you can also outgrow one another.

Alba not wanting to leave her small town is a nice change from the desperate need characters have to get out of their small town and never return. The sense of belonging and the attachment she has to her town is sweet and I loved that she enjoyed her home and the people in it. She doesn’t have a hatred towards it, but the understanding that you can’t really have the life you want staying where you are is a profound theme to explore.

As a character Alba is so wonderful. Her love of baking and being an artist was so wholesome and seeing her express herself through both her passions was refreshing and comforting. She is comfortable in herself and her bubbly and chatting nature was never a bad thing. She had such a depth to her personality it was amazing to see it revealed.

While there is a plotline of Doomsday and the end of the world on New Years Eve, the weirdness takes a backseat. There is a focus instead on Alba, Sarah and her friends, their journeys and their friendships take centre stage and I loved that their connections was what the story was about, the other stuff is all secondary.

Through the whole thing I felt so content. Reading it was such an enjoyable experience and it was so great to read an Australia YA that felt Australian without having reference after reference thrown in your face to really remind you it was set in Australia.

I could listen to this book over and over. There was such a loveliness to it but also so many details to get wonderfully lost in and with a slow but never stale plot I relished this journey with all these beautiful characters.

You can purchase The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Sherwood by Meagan Spooner

Published: 19th March 2019 (print)/19th March 2019 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
HarperTeen/HarperCollins Publishers
Pages: 470/13 hrs and 20 mins
Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Robin of Locksley is dead.

Maid Marian doesn’t know how she’ll go on, but the people of Locksley town, persecuted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, need a protector. And the dreadful Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff’s right hand, wishes to step into Robin’s shoes as Lord of Locksley and Marian’s fiancé.

Who is there to stop them?

Marian never meant to tread in Robin’s footsteps—never intended to stand as a beacon of hope to those awaiting his triumphant return. But with a sweep of his green cloak and the flash of her sword, Marian makes the choice to become her own hero: Robin Hood.

Gender flipped Robin Hood? Yes please. I loved every minute of this book, the way the original myth is woven into this retelling is amazing. Spooner doesn’t bring it into modern times or change the era, instead she gives us a brilliant story about another origin for the Robin Hood myth and it is one I will eagerly get behind.

I inhaled this book. It’s incredibly long but I could not put this down. From the beginning I was drawn in and Spooner kept me there until the very end. I needed to climb inside the story and I had this story in my ears every spare second I had. I have no idea what I was expecting when I found this but it exceeded everything and I cannot praise the incredible world building Spooner has done around her interpretation of this myth. Robin Hood is a classic character and a well established story for hundreds of years and this story gives you the story we all know, but at the same time draws back the curtain to what is a legitimate explanation about what happens.

Marian is a wonderful character; she is strong, capable, and she is looking to seek justice for the persecuted. She doesn’t start off that way though, Spooner shows Marian’s growth from her naivety and ignorance to wanting to help those around her and the lengths she goes to to do so. Seeing the two sides of Marian, often existing side by side simultaneously is a great way to reveal how she gradually, reluctantly and determinedly steps into fill the role of her lost love. The fact Marian can be self sufficient, strong, and talented while also being sheltered and naive is a clever move because she is fully capable, but within her own world and leaving that means she needs to reexamine things.

The familiar characters of the Robin Hood myth make an appearance and the way Spooner has woven her reimagining into the typical story is incredible. It plays on the idea of the hooded hero and the band of the merry men but with all of the danger and medieval limitations of being a high society woman and leading a doubled life.

From the first pages I was captivated by this story. This is so much more than a simple gender flipping because it retells the story but it’s also telling us the story we already know but with behind the scene access. There’s secrets and danger and it’s full of tension and suspense which is stressful as you read but also quite exhilarating when anything could happen. It’s the perfect book for anybody looking for a story full of adventure but also full of love, justice, secrets and surprises.

You can purchase Sherwood via the following

 Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | Angus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Published: 1st November 2018 (print)/1 February 2020 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Allen & Unwin/Bolinda Publishing
Pages: 352/8 hrs and 56 mins
Narrator: Abbe Holmes
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

I knew my brother. I knew when he talked too much about Timothy his imaginary pet eagle. He was scared.
‘Whatever you do,’ I said to Davey on the walk to school, ‘Do not tell people about your eagle. Do not tell Miss Schweitzer about your eagle.’
He looked crestfallen. His shoulders slumped. He looked to make sure Timothy hadn’t fallen off.

Lenny, small and sharp, has a younger brother Davey who won’t stop growing – and at seven is as tall as a man. Raised by their single mother, who works two jobs and is made almost entirely out of worries, they have food and a roof over their heads, but not much else.

The bright spot every week is the arrival of the latest issue of Burrell’s Build-It-at-Home Encyclopaedia. Through the encyclopaedia, Lenny and Davey experience the wonders of the world – beetles, birds, quasars, quartz – and dream about a life of freedom and adventure, visiting places like Saskatchewan and Yellowknife, and the gleaming lakes of the Northwest Territories. But as her brother’s health deteriorates, Lenny comes to accept the inevitable truth; Davey will never make it to Great Bear Lake.

This was so highly praised I feared it was a Literature book that won the awards but was dull to read. Thankfully this wasn’t the case and instead it is a sweet and heartbreaking story set in the 1970s filled with sibling love and a love of information. There is a strong chance this book will break your heart but it will also fill you with love and admiration, you’ll become so consumed by these two siblings that everything in their lives becomes of vital importance to you.

Foxlee’s narrative is so beautifully written. It’s profound and magical and it captures so many feelings and emotions that are eloquent but never feel pretentious. The themes of loss and heartbreak are clear, but love and support are evident throughout as well. Lenny’s life is one where she tries so hard to be the big sister and the extra grown up her family needs but so often Foxlee shows she is also a little girl herself and with so much uncertainty around her, her own strength and determination doesn’t always have the reach required.

It was fascinating to see how Davey’s condition was dealt with and managed in the 1970s. It was also a wonderful look through Lenny’s eyes at her life with her brother and their life as a family. Lenny’s protectiveness of her younger brother, even when no one knew quite what was wrong, was so sweet. No matter what was going on with Davey he was still her little brother and she had to help and guide him through the world. You also feel the fierce pride and love Lenny’s mother had for her children, the way she advocates for them, not only with Davey’s condition, but in regards to the encyclopaedias as well. I loved how Foxlee uses the encyclopaedias as a focal point throughout and how it piques the children’s interests and passions. She beautifully captures the anticipation of the upcoming edition and highlights its importance in their lives.

Holmes does a fantastic job with the audiobook. She captures the childlike innocence of the children but also Lenny’s determination to be strong and brave for her mother and brother. I found myself completely absorbed in this story about Lenny and Davey and their discovery and fascinating with the subjects of each new edition of the encylocpaedia. This is a beautiful story and one that stays with you even after you’ve put it down.

You can purchase Lenny’s Book of Everything via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

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